St. James and Regenerative Eroticism

I have been re-reading Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful novel Prodigal Summer over the last few weeks. This book is simply the sexiest and most erotic novel I’ve ever read.

You see, Kingsolver puts her rich writing skills to work in Prodigal Summer to explore and rejoice in the erotic fecundity of all of creation. There is sex going on everywhere.

Between humans young and old.
Between coyotes, pear trees, insects.

Everywhere you look there is regenerative coupling going on in one way or another. If you want eroticism just open your eyes and look all around you. Creation is a major turn on.

Up at Russet House Farm we’ve been thinking a lot about regeneration these days. As we look at the contours of our land, the way in which water flows here, our animals, and the relative health of our soil, pastures, forest and hedges, we are constantly thinking about what are the most regenerative things that we can do as stewards of this wonderful place. You could say that we are trying to encourage and intensify the eroticism of Russet House Farm.

Now maybe I’ve been thinking about regenerative eroticism because I’ve been reading Kingsolver. Or maybe it is because Sylvia participated in an intensive permaculture design course in May, and permaculture is all about regenerative patterns of life.

Or maybe my mind has gone to regenerative eroticism because I’ve been reading St. James.

At Wine Before Beer we’re hanging out with the epistle of James for the summer and we have already seen that James is rather adept at playing with sexual metaphors.

In the first chapter of his epistle, James talks about sin as a matter of desire that lures and entices. Hmm … sounds sexual.

And then he says that when such desire has conceived it gives birth to sin. Yep, that is definitely sexual.

Then comes the kicker. When sin, conceived and born in misdirected desire, grows up it gives birth to death.

Sexuality, yes. But not regenerative.
Call it a sexuality unto death.

And then James contrasts all of this with the alternative regenerative eroticism of the “word.”

The “word of truth” has been implanted in you, he writes, and we are given birth by that word, becoming thereby the first fruits of all of creation.

Regenerative eroticism, indeed.

But what happens if the word is implanted, but doesn’t actually do anything?

Well, says James, that would be all talk and no action, all word and no work.

That would be faith without works, and faith apart from works, he writes, is “barren.”

Barren, fruitless, no regenerative possibility.

For James, the issue isn’t simply a matter of our lives being an ‘application’ of our faith.
No, for James it is much more integral than this.

Faith without works is dead.
It is barren.
It is going nowhere.
It has no meaning.

Faith without works is dead.
Just as dead as sin born of idolatrous desire.

At Wine Before Breakfast (or Beer as the case may be)
we have no interest in a non-regenerative faith.

Curiously enough, while many of us might suffer from BAPTSD,
– ‘Born-Again-Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder” –
we are, nonetheless, all about regeneration.

And such regeneration takes work.

So in our reading of James together, we continue to encourage each other in the work of faith,
in the work of producing first fruits of the New Creation,
in the work of justice,
in the good and productive work of following Jesus.

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

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